I’ve always been behind our city’s unique diversity, and always will be, but is our easygoing Brummie openess a flaw?
Could it be the reason why Birmingham is rafting down the UK’s deprivation rapids, year after year? Low living standards, low learning standards; a low standard of life.
Many of the UK’s poorest and most deprived lives are being lived out right here, by our fellow Brummies.
Today, in Ladywood, Sparkbrook and Small Heath people are riding out some of the UK’s highest jobless rates. Could it be that Birmingham’s Job Centres have been looted? Looted by an unrestricted flood of economic migrants?
Scroungers from Solihull? Arrivistes from Knowle? Strangers from Sutton Coldfield? Barbarians from Barnt Green?
As far as most Brummies are concerned, the Blair-era career gravy train rocketed right past, like the HS2. But a human tide of middle class professionals floods Birmingham each day from the suburban shanty towns that ring our city.
And nowhere is the gap between the lives of us Brummies and our “executive guest workers” more obvious than in Birmingham’s multi-million pound cultural sector.
Groomed by the local authority and a small elite of ‘tastemakers’, half-a-dozen ‘flagship’ venues and ventures in the city centre now hoover up most of the taxpayer and corporate cash. Just like the banks, they’ve become ‘too big to fail’.
More and more their programming reflects the tastes – and train timetables – of an alien clique.
And these are venues that could be nurturing our own local talent; developing and bringing to market our own authentic indigenous superstars.
That was the recipe over in Bristol and Manchester yesterday, and up in Sheffield and Leeds today.
No venue where the wine list is more important than the playlist will ever transform us into Britain’s Barcelona.
Instead, a smokescreen of high brow arts, pantos and community projects hides a city centre that looks and feels like an Arts Ibiza for suburban thirtysomethings.
Or maybe, another Prague.
At Punch, we shudder at a future for Birmingham, where the orchestral hits of John Williams play to stag parties of drunken hedge fund managers every night.
Where every new art show is work by old musicians, instead of young painters, and where the real talent performs in derelict warehouses and empty shops, before moving out.
We’d love to start a debate about how your money is spent, or how the local authority and others could better support and promote the city’s indigenous independents. Online comments welcome.
* Ammo Talwar MBE is CEO of Punch Records